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A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction Hardcover – Aug 1 1977

4.7 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1216 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (Aug. 1 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195019199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195019193
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 5.1 x 20.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #13,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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The second of three books published by the Center for Environmental Structure to provide a "working alternative to our present ideas about architecture, building, and planning," A Pattern Language offers a practical language for building and planning based on natural considerations. The reader is given an overview of some 250 patterns that are the units of this language, each consisting of a design problem, discussion, illustration, and solution. By understanding recurrent design problems in our environment, readers can identify extant patterns in their own design projects and use these patterns to create a language of their own. Extraordinarily thorough, coherent, and accessible, this book has become a bible for homebuilders, contractors, and developers who care about creating healthy, high-level design.

Review

"A wise old owl of a book, one to curl up with in an inglenook on a rainy day.... Alexander may be the closest thing home design has to a Zen master."--The New York Times

"A classic. A must read!"--T. Colbert, University of Houston

"The design student's bible for relativistic environmental design."--Melinda La Garce, Southern Illinois University

"Brilliant....Here's how to design or redesign any space you're living or working in--from metropolis to room. Consider what you want to happen in the space, and then page through this book. Its radically conservative observations will spark, enhance, organize your best ideas, and a wondrous home, workplace, town will result."--San Francisco Chronicle

"The most important book in architecture and planning for many decades, a landmark whose clarity and humanity give hope that our private and public spaces can yet be made gracefully habitable."--The Next Whole Earth Catalog

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
I originally learned of this book in The New Cottage Home, a beautiful account of small homes that epitomize coziness, comfort, beauty, and in some cases, sustainability. At the end of The New Cottage Home, the author discussed some of the qualities that make a cottage a cottage, and in doing so presented some very interesting ideas. For example, people are subconsciously comforted by the thickened edges that often surround windows and doors. The authors of A Pattern Language believe that this is because we recognize this feature in one another...in the thickness of our lips, the boldness of the skin surrounding our eyes...and thus expect it in places like a home. With good reason, too. Lips and eyelids are no accident! Openings without thickened edges are prone to breakage and defectiveness.
Most of the "patterns" described in A Pattern Language are similar in that people expect them and are comforted by them. In fact, Alexander refers to them as archetypes, which is a word that always interested me. To think that there are universally appealing features in the built environment that people never even consider throughout the building process is staggering. Have you ever seen or entered a place that felt cold and unwelcoming? Read this book and you'll be able to understand why.
It's the universal appeal of these archetypal patterns, as well as the timeless principles on which this book is based, that make this a classic in the architectural field. While A Pattern Language has withstood the test of time, I still have to file a complaint for just that reason. Here and there you'll read statements that make you think "Huh? Things aren't like that anymore...
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Format: Hardcover
I've read all three books in this series, and I thought this was by far the best and most accessible. The first, "A Timeless Way of Building", introduced the author's philosophy and was, I thought, a bit bogged down with New Age jargon. I prefer to think in terms of comfort and relationships, though ultimately I agree with just about everything the author-as-designer states and obviously went on to read his other work. I thought the third book, photographs of a project completed by the author, should have been the most informative, but ultimately didn't do justice to the author's ideas. But maybe it was just the poor quality of the pictures. IMHO this is the masterpiece of the trilogy. Christopher Alexander's Empire Strikes Back. Its concern is the practical application of the author's ideas, and one could only wish to live or work in a space designed with this philosophy. His thinking is pragmatic AND beautiful, bringing balance and harmony to space.
Having made the case for his system of architectural and social design in his earlier work, the author here goes on to formalize a system of 253 patterns, ranging in scale from towns down to benches. Patterns 1 through 94 define a town or community; numbers 95 through 204 define (groups of) buildings; and numbers 205-253 define a "buildable building". The individual patterns are themselves evocative and inviting, and cover a myriad of human social and environmental relationships: number 1 is Independent Region, pattern 2 is Distribution of Towns, 10 is Magic of the City, 57 is Children in the City, number 62 is High Places, number 63 Dancing in the Street, 94 is Sleeping in Public, 203 Child Caves, 223 Deep Reveals, 235 Soft Inside Walls, 253 Things from Your Life.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful collection of design elements for architecture. Each pattern dissects a basic architectural element ranging from a metropolitan plan down to the design of the flow through an individual home. Each pattern is placed in the context of a problem or activity, and shows how that particular solution is realized via some architectural device.
For example, the pattern for Levels of Intimacy describes the problem that each house must accommodate different levels of familiarity and intimacy. We need spaces in our home to allow guests to enter and yet not be admitted to our most personal spaces. The design of a home must therefore allow for different levels of intimacy begining with the least intimate/more formal at the home entryway, and becoming more casual and intimate as you proceeded into family living, eating, and sleeping spaces.
This book also influenced software designers to produce analagous collections of design patterns for the software design field.
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Format: Hardcover
I agree for the most part with all the other reviews but want to add my personal reaction to the book. I am a visual artist; portrait painter; figurative; still life; flora and nature subjects; former commercial illustrator. I also design textiles and clothing on occasion. I am finding Mr. Alexander's writings on architectural design to be very relevant to my own visual art work in ways that I did not expect. I orginally bought the book, after borrowing a copy from an artist friend, to help me in designing a new studio building. I keep the book by my bedside and like to browse the chapters. Each time I come across an idea that is not only helpful for my studio plans but also is inspiring some new directions for my artwork. I have gone on to purchase all of his books. The concepts seem universal and relevant to any age and type of design. Some ideas are so simple, so obvious that I have the "slap yourself in the head" reaction - Of course! Why didn't I think of that? Others are so subtle that their truth and beauty have a mysterious quality that can't be named. I consider this, and Pirsig's "Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" to be the two most important books I have ever read, and continue to reread.
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